Business owners and shoppers share their fond memories of the country’s oldest shopping centre, which will stop operating from Jan 1
IT’S time to bring down the curtain on Ampang Park, the country’s first shopping centre, come New Year’s eve. A date for its demolition has yet to be determined but businesses will stop operating.
The building, with its narrow escalators and split-level floors, will be torn down to make way for the Ampang Mass Rapid Transit station.
Many business operators are finding it hard to bid farewell to the 44-year-old building.
Sharon Sinha, 52, who owns Hydac Computer Centre, described the shopping centre as a “village”.
She said besides making life-long friendship with customers and other owners, she met her husband at Ampang Park.
“It was love at first sight and I will always cherish this memory.”
Sharon said that in her 30 years of doing business at Ampang Park, she always felt at home there.
She said shop owners would not only have lunch and tea together, but they also shared their joys and sadness.
Khoo Seng Soon and Lee Saw Chan, who own Fashion TipTop, shared the same happy memories of going on tea breaks with their friends.
The couple have started packing their belongings and will relocate their business to Jalan Tun Razak.
“While we will always keep the memories in our hearts, I think it is time to create new ones,” said Khoo.
Mah Su Ping, 62, the owner of Syarikat Ampang Electronics, is sad over what he described as the “tragic ending” of Ampang Park.
The electronics shop is one of the first few shops to start operating at the shopping centre and has been passed down three generations.
“This is our father’s legacy and taking care of this shop felt more like a responsibility.
“It is sad that this iconic building is set to be demolished, but I am more upset about leaving its community behind.
“For us, our customers and other owners have become our family as we have known each other for a long time.”
Mah said he and other business owners had tried everything they could to continue operating at the shopping centre.
It was three years ago that they were told that Ampang Park was to be demolished to make way for an underground walkway for the MRT line, which has been designed to integrate with the Light Rail Transit (LRT) network.
On Jan 8 last year, 39 of the strata owners and tenants of Ampang Park filed a legal challenge to its acquisition by the government and Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd.
The application was dismissed by the High Court on June 30 last year.
Early this year, the Court of Appeal rejected the application for a judicial review submitted by the strata title owners.
The shopping centre was the brainchild of Tan Sri Low Keng Huat and his brothers, modelled on People’s Park, the first shopping centre in Singapore.
The five-storey mall in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, has a net lettable area of 355,489 sq ft and 253 lots.
In a visit to the shopping centre, the New Sunday Times found that many shops had closed, especially those on the upper floors.
Maps and addresses of their new premises were plastered on doors. Those operating there were holding “moving-out sales” with generous discounts.
There were shoppers, mostly on the ground floor where a few fast-food restaurants and eateries, as well as boutiques, are operating.
Office workers were going to the eateries, including the food court on level two, during breakfast and lunch.
The ground floor, which was a hive of activity, was almost vacant.
The management of the shopping centre had put up Christmas trees at its concourse, lending it a festive atmosphere.
Azean Hasan, 53, visited the shopping centre when it opened in 1973.
“I was 11 and my uncle took my family there for a visit as it was new.
“We came from Perak and visiting a shopping centre like Ampang Park was a huge event.
“We were impressed with the escalator as it was a novelty then.
“We spent our time going up and down the escalator while my mum shopped.”
She remembered a playground on the top floor of the building, where she spent many hours with her cousins.
Sabrina Choy, 60, who used to shop at Ampang Park in her 20s, reminisced about her memories of the shopping centre.
“There is a shoe shop that I love and every time it had new stocks, the owner would call me.
“I would go to the shop and buy the same design in various colours.
“I used to live in Old Klang Road. People thought that going to Ampang Park was convenient.
“This is true. The business owners have built a good relationship with the shoppers and they make us feel as part of their community.”
Choy, who works at Menara Binjai opposite Ampang Park, said she planned to pay the shopping centre a final visit on Dec 31.